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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Teen Witch’: Hackneyed Plot Under a Hex

Try this at home, kids: Watch a really preachy “Afterschool Special,” but use the remote to switch channels intermittently, being sure to hit the occasional MTV rap video, a “Bewitched” rerun or two, and plenty of commercials in which pretty young people hold brand names up to the camera.

Congratulations. In less-than-scientific and highly cost-effective conditions, you’ve just reproduced the exact experience of paying $6 to watch “Teen Witch” (citywide), complete with teen wish-fulfillment fantasies, condescending moralizing, asinine musical montages, horrifying pop songs, French kissing, blatant product plugs and Dick Sargent (formerly of “Bewitched”).

Switch witchcraft for werewolves, and the hackneyed plot of “Teen Witch” could easily be that of “Teen Wolf” or a dozen others like it: Unpopular high-schooler develops magical powers, becomes the most popular kid in school, then decides rather unconvincingly at the end to make a stand as a garden-variety mortal after all.

Robyn Lively is the plain-Jane type whose 16th birthday brings the power to cast spells. High on her list of potential recipients: hunky but unavailable Dan Gauthier, who looks as if he’s auditioning for GQ.

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Be forewarned that this is a high school where, bewitched or not, the youth occasionally break into song (or white rap) and dance--including a memorably ghastly “I Like Boys” production number in a locker room that might have poor Busby Berkeley doing about 1,600 RPM in his grave.

Among the supernatural vets on hand is Sargent, whose casting as Lively’s dad is the movie’s one good joke. Its one good line goes to its resident psychic, Zelda Rubinstein (who else?), who advises her teen charge to go ahead and use Love Potion No. 9, explaining, “Falling in love is just a trick anyway--the right hair style, the right music. . . .” But Zelda also has the movie’s worst line: “The real magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen!”

Guess the makers of “Teen Witch” (rated PG-13, but aimed at an under-13 audience) just didn’t believe in themselves enough.


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